Sunday, November 27, 2011

Butter Chicken Anyone?

The Beau brought his parents to Calgary this weekend to do some Christmas shopping and so that they could see where I live close to downtown Calgary.  I was looking forward to it and had planned out meals for Thursday night when they arrived, plus breakfasts and suppers for the weekend (figuring we would eat lunch at the malls or downtown where we would be shopping).  
So I was a little disappointed (okay, annoyed) when the Beau announced that I would not have to cook this weekend because he wanted to treat all of us by taking us out to some of the many great restaurants here in Calgary.  I had really wanted the opportunity to show them (particularly his Mom) that I was doing a good job of feeding their pride and joy whenever he was here with me.  We started Saturday shopping mid morning but by 1:00 p.m. we were enjoying Vietnamese food for lunch, and talk at our table was about favourite foods and flavours.  I raved quite a bit about East Indian and Asian flavours, which are my favourites right now.  The Beau's mom asked if I could cook East Indian and the Beau jumped right in, telling her I make a great Butter Chicken!!!  I remember making it for him last year and him being rather hesitant about trying it.  He ended up eating the entire pot of it, so I guess he really thought it was good and wasn't just starving (the man can eat and is slim too)
I asked if they would like me to cook that for supper and I was thrilled when both of them said yes.   So a little while later we parted ways and the Beau and I drove to the condo so I could find the recipes I wanted to make plus check to see if I needed any ingredients for those recipes.   I love Bal Armeson's No-Butter Butter Chicken recipe (you may know her better as the Spice Goddess on the Food Network) because it's got a decent calorie count and it's delicious.  I wanted to make coconut rice and an Indian style cucumber salad and some kind of veggie as well.  I love my curries, butter chicken or vindaloos served over spaghetti squash, but I was not sure my almost in-laws would like that.   And coconut rice isn't something we have every day.  I decided to steam some asparagus as a veggie, and to treat my Beau to a dessert flavoured with the coffee he so loves.  Here's what I made for supper Saturday night:

Bal Armeson's No-Butter Butter Chicken

1/4 cup grapeseed oil (or canola...I use 2-3 Tbsp, tops)
2 large onions, chopped
2 Tbsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp minced ginger
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp cumin seeds
1 Tbsp Garam Masala **
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp red pepper flakes (or 1 jalapeno, finely minced)
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
3/4 cup 0 percent fat Greek yogurt (I use Oikos)
1/4 cup water

Place the oil in a non-stick skillet over high heat; add the onions and saute until dark golden brown.  Add the garlic and ginger, reduce the heat to medium and cook for 2 minutes.  Add the tomato paste and cumin seeds and cook for 30 seconds.

Reduce heat to low. add the garam masala, brown sugar, red pepper flakes (or jalapeno), turmeric and salt, and cook for 2 minutes.  Add the chicken and cook until the chicken is almost done, about 5 to 7 minutes.  Add the yogurt and water and cook another 5 minutes, or until the chicken is completely done.  This makes four servings, at about 340 calories per serving.

** Garam Masala (Bal Armeson's recipe)

1/2 cup coriander seeds
1/2 cup cumin seeds
1/4 cup dried curry leaves
1/4 cup black peppercorns
3 whole cloves
2 black cardamon pods
2 cinnamon sticks, about 3 inches long
2 bay leaves

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.  Combine all the ingredients, spread them on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven for 15 minutes.  Let cool and process to a fine powder in a grinder, such as a coffee grinder reserved for this purpose only (trust me on NOT mix grinding coffee and grinding spices).  Store in an airtight container in a cool place for up to 3 months.
I made this blend about 10 days ago to use in a curry recipe and have decided I will keep making it as it is so much more vibrant tasting than the garam masala I purchased in the grocery store.

Coconut Rice

2 cups basmati rice
3 Tbsp coconut oil (or canola or vegetable oil)
6 dried red chilies, torn into 1/2 inch pieces
1 1/2 tsp channa dal*
1 1/2 tsp urad dal*
1 tsp brown mustard seeds
15 fresh curry leaves*
1/2 to 1 tsp salt (more or less to taste)
1/4 tsp asafetida powder*
1 3/4 cups freshly grated coconut*
1 - 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Wash rice well and cook until tender in a rice cooker or by the usual absorption method (in a pot).  While the rice is cooking, heat 3 tablespoons oil in a medium-sized pan or skillet, and when hot add the chillies, chana dal, urad dal and mustard seeds. Stir and fry until the chillies darken and the dals turn golden brown.  Add the curry leaves, salt, asafetida and coconut, and stir and fry for a minute or two before reducing heat.  Gently cook the coconut mixture until the coconut turns a toasted reddish-brown and becomes quite crisp. It burns easily, so don't take your eyes off it for a second, and keep the coconut moving by stirring and tossing constantly.As soon as the coconut is the right colour and texture, turn off the heat. If the rice is not ready, transfer the coconut mixture to a bowl, so that it doesn't continue browning in the hot pan. Mix the coconut mixture gently through the hot, cooked rice, then stir through the chopped cilantro and serve immediately.  Makes 4 servings, each about 716 calories (yes, this is so NOT a diet recipe)  However, if you cut your portion in half (from 1 cup down to 1/2 cup) it's a more manageable 358 calories.  

* My tips:   

Chana dal and ural dal are readily available at most grocery stores (I have even seen them at Wal Mart).  

I have purchased fresh curry leaves at an East Indian grocery store here in Calgary, but I usually omit them.  

Asafedita powder is an East Indian spice that has kind of a onion/garlic flavour.  You can replace it with 1/8 tsp each of onion powder and garlic powder if you cannot locate it.  

And lastly....I don't always have time to grate fresh coconut and my friend Raksha taught me this trick years ago in Saskatoon....if you cannot obtain fresh coconut, soak 1 1/4 cups of unsweetened, desiccated coconut in warm water (to barely cover) for 1 hour then drain and squeeze dry. (sometimes you will have to use sweetened dessicated's okay, it's a nice contrast when served with spicy fragrant curries). 

Indian Style Cucumber Salad (English version of Raita)

1 seedless English cucumber, cut in a large dice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp fresh mint (1/2 tsp dried)
1/4 to 1/2 cup non fat plain Greek yogurt

Toss cucumber with salt in a colander in sink.  Let drain for 30 minutes, then pat dry.  Place all ingredients together in a bowl and stir gently together.  Chill for at least an hour before serving, to let flavours meld.  Adjust yogurt to suit your tastes...use less for a less creamy effect or more if you like this kind of salad really creamy.

I used to make my mom's recipe for Frozen Mocha Cheesecake a lot when we had company for super.  It's definitely NOT low calorie as originally conceived. A slice of this comes in at 552 calories a serving.  

Original Frozen Mocha Cheesecake
Margarine1/2 cup
Graham cracker crumbs1 1/2 cups
Granulated sugar1/4 cup
Cocoa, sifted if lumpy1/4 cup
Block of cream cheese, softened8 oz.

Can of sweetened condensed milk11 oz.
Chocolate ice cream topping2/3 cup
Instant coffee granules1 tbsp.
Hot water1 tsp.
Whipping cream (or 1 envelope  1 cup
topping, prepared)

Melt butter in medium saucepan on medium. Remove from heat. Add next 3 ingredients. Stir well. Reserve 1/2 cup (125 mL) for topping. Press firmly in bottom and 1 inch (2.5 cm) up side of ungreased 9 inch (22 cm) springform pan.


Beat cream cheese in medium bowl until smooth. Add condensed milk and ice cream topping. Mix well.

Dissolve coffee granules in hot water. Add to cream cheese mixture. Stir.

Beat whipping cream in medium bowl until soft peaks form. Fold into cream cheese mixture. Spread evenly in crust. Sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture. Freeze until firm. Cuts into 8 wedges (cut into 16 wedges for a smaller portion and reduced calorie count).

And now my slimmed down version:

Frozen Mocha Cheesecake Cups

2 chocolate wafer cookies, crushed

4 ounces low fat cream cheese
5 1/2 ounces no fat condensed milk
1/4 cup chocolate ice cream topping

1 Tbsp instant coffee granules
1 tsp hot water

1/2 cup whipping cream

Beat cream cheese in medium bowl until smooth. Add condensed milk and ice cream topping. Mix well.

Dissolve coffee granules in hot water. Add to cream cheese mixture. Stir.  Beat whipping cream in medium bowl until soft peaks form. Fold into cream cheese mixture.

Divide the chocolate wafer crumbs evenly between the ramekins.  Spread the crumbs out evenly.  Then poor the cheesecake filling into the ramekins...Some of the crumbs  will rise up with the filling, that's okay.  Top with a sprinkle of instant coffee granules.  Freeze.  
Each serving is about 275 calories.

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